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Red Lake / Forestdale Road

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

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Red Lake / Forestdale Road

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  • The trailhead is immediately upon turning onto Red Vista Road. Don't follow the road, but park next to Highway 88 for quickest access to the trail.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • The trailhead is atop the snowbank and is restricted to human-powered traffic only, except when insufficient snow exists at the Hope Valley Sno-Park.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • The trail traces Forestdale Road, a forest road which is not maintained during the winter.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • The road makes up the border of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the Mokelumne Wilderness.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • Blue diamond blazes mark the road, however these become harder to spot as the trail continues on.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • Early portions of the trail skirt a meadow at the edge of Hope Valley.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • The nearby peak makes this a popular area with backcountry skiers.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
  • High mountainous conditions make for snow lasting later in the season and coming at unpredictable times, but that's not a bad thing if you want to be able to have that winter feeling well into the spring.- Red Lake / Forestdale Road
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Very scenic. Fun variety of terrain. Backcountry exploration opportunities.
Cons: 
Peak conditions mean weather and snow can be unpredictable and inconsistent up here.
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Region:
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
250.00 ft (76.20 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter
Total Distance: 
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,844.00 ft (2,390.85 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

The Red Lake / Forestdale Road Trail packs a lot of amazingness into a package that can be made as small or as distant as you would like to make it!

Following Forestdale Road, a Forest Service road that remains unmaintained throughout the snowy season, the trail begins near the eastern edge of the alpine Red Lake that sits in the shadow of Carson Pass and the Kirkwood Ski Resort and skirts meadows, aspen groves, mountainous peaks, stunning vistas of the Sierra, and dense pine forest as it heads deep into the Mokelumne Wilderness.

Initially the road marks the border between the Mokelumne Wilderness, which contains mountainous terrain from the road up to Elephants Back Peak to the west - popular terrain for backcountry skiers - and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Land to the east. Forestdale Road is closed to snowmobile traffic, but snowmobiles are permitted in this area when the Hope Valley Sno-Park slightly down the hill has insufficient snow.

Skiers and snowshoers really don't need to travel too far, as only a half mile in the trail opens up to a meadow ecosystem and a mix of cedar and conifer trees, some with wide trunks and contorted limbs that have grown to withstand the high mountainous conditions here.

These mountainous conditions mean that weather can be both unpredictable and inconsistent. The benefit is that snow remains on the ground much later into the spring than in many other places, and it doesn't take far to ski to leave all traces of the already-sparse mountainous civilization behind and feel that you are isolated in this high mountain pass. This was the area that Snowshoe Thompson and John C. Fremont crossed in their early explorations of the region.

Eventually an abundance of snow and a lack of trail markers make it very likely you'll lose the trail, but the rolling backcountry with sloped terrain, meandering bluffs, and forested groves make this ideal to create your own path. Aspen groves line what would be a flowing creek in a less-snowy season, and there are no signs of development or human construction as far as you can see.

At any point you can turn around and retrace your path back to the trail and the trailhead.

There are no amenities of any kind at the trail. It is free to park here; a sno-park pass is required for Carson Pass area trails and parking.

This is trail is overseen by the Hope Valley Outdoors Ski and Snowshoe Center, and though the trail is not groomed, you can inquire at Hope Valley Outdoors regarding gear rental and trail conditions. 

Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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(16 within a 30 mile radius)

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(56 within a 30 mile radius)

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